Spotlight On: Lijiang, China

An ancient Chinese city with almost a thousand years of history, Lijiang nestles snugly among the forested foothills of the Southern Himalaya in Yunnan Province, 200 miles northwest of the province’s capital, Kunming. Lijiang built its wealth as a major caravan stop on the Old Tea Horse Road, which connected Yunnan – one of the world’s first tea-growing regions – with Bengal, Central China and Tibet.

Today, Lijiang is a meeting point between worlds; modern offices and shops may govern the new part of town, but its boundary is clearly marked by a double wooden waterwheel. Beyond the wheel lies Lijiang’s charming and evocative Old Town, where cars are forbidden and the lantern-lined pathways are paved with rustic, fine-grained local bluestone. Crossing the waterwheel boundary is a poignant moment, akin to stepping back in time.

Lijiang Old Town is an atmospheric maze of meandering streets, wood-and-stone houses and bubbling canals, criss-crossed by over 300 historic stone bridges fringed by trailing willows. The waterways are lined with traditional artisan workshops, including silversmiths, woodcarvers, leather craftsmen and sweet-makers.

Some of the best studios are found in Sifang (Square) Street, but many hidden gems can be found in the quieter lanes and passageways that radiate from this main shopping district. These flower-garlanded side-streets shift in sequence with the seasons; plum bonsai, spring orchids and azaleas provide an ever-changing backdrop to this rustic, UNESCO-protected slice of Chinese heritage.

The most iconic image of Lijiang, of course, is that of the Black Dragon Pool in Jade Spring Park, north of the Old Town. Established in 1737, the park is studded with a variety of temples and pavilions which have been built and rebuilt over the past three centuries.

The pond is the source of the many canals in the city, and as such, the lifeblood of the Old Town. The scenic Black Dragon Pool, with its marble Suocui Bridge leading to the Moon-Embracing Temple at the foot of Elephant Hill, and the eighteen silvery peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain rising against the skyline, is considered one of the finest views in all of China.

For a closer view of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain itself, take a cable car to the elevated alpine meadows of Yunshanping Viewpoint. Here, raised pathways lead through spruce-dominated woodland to an open glade with mesmerising views of the mountain’s majestic, snow-capped crest.

Lijiang Old Town, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Black Dragon Pool are some of our travellers’ best-loved experiences in China. They feature on a number of our longer China tour itineraries, including Yunnan & Sichuan, Classic China, China Encounters, Tibetan Wonders, Ultimate China, and China: The Big One.

On our Classic China tour you’ll cruise along the Yangtze and Li Rivers as the spectacular landscapes of Yunnan province take your breath away. Saunter around the cobbled streets of old Lijiang, gaze on the magnificent Tiger Leaping Gorge and explore the mysterious Stone Forest on this diverse adventure.

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